I grew up in a dancing family! My mother, Paunie Van Orden has been teaching dance since she was 15 years old and still teaches today at 81 years old. My mother was my first and most important teacher!
I studied ballet with Christina Carsen.
Christina Carson was born Emily Sharples on June 15, 1922, in England. Her parents moved her to Paris so she could study under Olga Preobrajenska, a world renowned ballet instructor. While still in her teens, her talent drew the attention of leading ballet companies, and as Kira Shariva she toured the world with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a Prima Ballerina. She had the privilege of working with George Balanchine who was the resident choreographer for the Ballet and also became the co- founded of the American Ballet and co- founder, artistic director and chief choreographer of the New York City Ballet
Olga Preobrajenska was a student of the Russian Imperial Ballet School, where her teachers were Nicholas Legat, Enrico Cecchetti, and Christian Johansson. Olga was probably the best loved ballerina of the Russian Imperial Ballet. She had an illustrious career then dedicated her life to teaching new generations of dancers. Every major mid- 20th- century Western dancer visited Olga Preobrajenska for lessons. Tamara Toumanova, Margot Fonteyn, Irina Baronova, Gillian Lynne and Vladimir Dokoudovsky were among the many dancers she coached, and through her students, the Preobrajenska method was soon disseminated in some of the top ballet academies of Europe and New York. The Preobrajenska Method emphasized purity and elegance of movement.
Enrico Cecchetti was the founder of the Cecchetti method of ballet and he was widely accepted as the greatest ballet virtuoso in the world. He taught at the Imperial School in St. Petersburg from 1887—1902, and then the Warsaw State School in Poland from 1902—1905. Returning to St. Petersburg in 1905, he established a school there. He was the link between the past and the present, contributing to the birth of modern classical ballet. Considered the technical marvel of the ballet world, it was said that no one could become a finished ballet dancer without passing through Cecchetti's hands.
I studied tap mostly from my mother, Paunie, who was trained by, Anne Chapman, Mary Kasai, Stan Byington and Maceo Anderson of the Four Step Brothers. Paunie was an exceptional tap dancer and had opportunities to dance with Donald O'Conner, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lewis.
I also studied tap from Maceo Anderson of the world renowned tap group The Four Step Brothers.
The Step Brothers started out as a trio in 1925, with the original members, Maceo Anderson, Al Williams and Red Walker. In 1927, after accepting a new member, Sherman Robertson, they became The Four Step Brothers. Dubbed "The Eight Feet of Rhythm," the group soon traveled with Duke Ellington. While starring with the "Brothers," Anderson also appeared at the Hoofer Club.
They were the first black act to perform at Radio City Music Hall in New York, the first at the Chez Paris Club in Chicago and the first to break television's color bar, becoming, as a result, the best-known dance act in the nation. They appeared at the Roxy and with Frank Sinatra at the Paramount and performed in many Hollywood movies in the 1930's and 1940's.
Beyond their contributions to racial integration in the entertainment world, the Four Step Brothers were important for popularizing rhythm-tap and competition or challenge
dancing: both hallmarks of pure African American tap technique.
My mother, Paunie, was trained in coaching by Béla Károlyi, a Romanian gymnastics coach from Hungary. He and his wife, Márta have coached both Romanian and U.S. Olympic teams to medal-winning success.
I attended workshops with James A Rosanas, known as the Grandfather of gymnastics who coached the first U.S. Women's Olympic team.
I competed in gymnastics for several years with my mothers team and my High School team. My one small claim to fame is that I was the first person in the state of Idaho to perform a back hand-spring on the balance beam in a competition.